POSTSCRIPT / November 20, 2007 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Bataan-vs-Petron war rages over realty taxes

FREE FALL: I had a friend who wanted to set a record on how much gasoline he would be able to save on a Baguio-Manila run and prove to us that his trusted Beetle was the most economical car round.

That was three decades ago, before the more efficient Japanese cars came to steal the economy plum from the early starters that included Volkswagen .

What he did, as he confessed to me later, was to switch off the engine occasionally in the downgrades, especially on Kennon Road, relying on gravity and his car’s momentum to carry him with the least fuel consumption.

That was a really dangerous thing to do, and we are glad he and his vehicle survived that crazy stunt.

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SAVINGS TIPS: I can’t help recalling that “economy run,” harassed as we are by insatiable oil companies raising their prices with impunity.

Casting around the Internet for novel tips on how to save gas, I picked up from the La Salle circuit this technically interesting email:

“I’ve been in petroleum pipeline business for about 31 years, currently working for the Kinder-Morgan Pipeline here in San Jose, California . We deliver about four million gallons in a 24-hour period from the pipe line.

“Here are some tricks to help you get your money’s worth:

“1. Fill up your car or truck in the morning when the temperature is still cool. Remember that all service stations have their storage tanks buried below ground; and the colder the ground, the denser the gasoline. When it gets warmer gasoline expands, so if you’re filling up in the afternoon or in the evening, what should be a gallon is not exactly a gallon.

“In the petroleum business, the specific gravity and temperature of the fuel (gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, ethanol and other petroleum products) are significant. Every truckload that we load is temperature-compensated so that the indicated gallon gauge is actually the amount pumped.

“A one-degree rise in temperature is a big deal for businesses, but service stations don’t have temperature compensation at their pumps.

“2. If a tanker truck is filling the station’s tank at the time you want to buy gas, do not fill up. Most likely dirt and sludge in the tank is being stirred up when gas is being delivered, and you might be transferring that dirt from the bottom of their tank into your car’s tank.

“3. Fill up when your gas tank is half-full (or half-empty), because the more gas you have in your tank the less air there is. Remember, gasoline evaporates rapidly, especially when it’s warm.

(Gasoline storage tanks have an internal floating ‘roof’ membrane to act as a barrier between the gas and the atmosphere, thereby minimizing evaporation.)

“4. If you look at the pump trigger you’ll see that it has three delivery settings: slow, medium and high. When you’re filling up, do not squeeze the trigger of the nozzle to the high setting. You should be pumping at the slow setting, thereby minimizing vapors created.

“Hoses at the pump are corrugated. The corrugations act as a return path for vapor recovery from gas that already has been metered. If you are pumping at the high setting, the agitated gasoline contains more vapor, which is being sucked back into the underground tank, so you’re getting less gas for your money.”

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COLD AIR: Back to Baguio , whenever I drive up to the Pines City, I see to it that I fill up before I park my car for the night.

Some friends at Petron have advised me that the air in the gas tank, which is almost empty (and has more air in it) by the time I get to Baguio , also has water vapor.

If the air in the tank is allowed to cool and condense overnight, it is likely to add to the amount of water in the tank. That’s bad.

But if you fill up, the air in the tank — and the water vapor with it — is forced out.

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UNDERDECLARATION: Talking of Petron, I bumped into Bataan Gov. Enrique “Tet” Garcia days ago at the Shangrila and he poured out his lament about Petron’s alleged property underdeclaration resulting in its paying less taxes.

He is smarting from comments that he has been using strong-arm methods, even blackmail, to squeeze excessive taxes from the oil company’s refinery in Bataan.

The bone of contention, he said, is the assessment of deficiency realty taxes, totaling P1.7 billion, against Petron that has piled up since 1994. He said this is on top of the P1.675-billion real property taxes paid by Petron.

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TRUE VALUE: The taxes paid by Petron, he explained, were based on its own declaration. But Petron inadvertently submitted last March the true value of its real property. The new figures showed that its assets are worth much more than earlier declared.

Based on corrected figures, the oil firm was assessed P1.7 billion deficiency taxes. When it refused to pay, the provincial government availed of the remedies under the law to collect the taxes due.

Last June 19, a notice of delinquent real property taxes was issued to Petron. This was followed by a final notice of delinquency issued on Aug. 21.

Despite the notices, Petron refused to pay the deficiency taxes, so a warrant of levy was issued against its machineries and equipment on Sept. 20.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 20, 2007)

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